The United Nations University (UNU) plans to hold a one-day HIV/AIDS seminar tomorrow, aimed at helping international academic institutions conduct research that could lead to halting the epidemic's devastating trail across Africa.
"As you know an estimated 25 million people today in Africa are infected by HIV/AIDS," said David Sahn, International Professor of Economics at Cornell University.
"This accounts for somewhere in the order of some two-thirds of the number of adults inflicted with this horrible disease globally," he added at the press briefing today.
He also noted that while some progress had been made in combating the disease, some 3 million women are infected annually in sub-Saharan Africa.
Experts speaking at the The Social and Economic Dimensions of HIV/AIDS in Africa symposium, organized in partnership with Cornell University, have stated that African women carry a disproportionate share of the disease.
They also say that women's lives are affected by social and cultural norms that lead to stigmas and discrimination and help to spread the epidemic. Many women lack family and community support networks, undermining their ability to take preventative action and seek treatment.
"Women in Africa have little voice in sexual and reproductive choices and rely on health-care systems that are often insensitive to their needs and vulnerabilities," according to a press release from the symposium organizers.
Included in the topics to be addressed by experts at the meeting is the link between HIV/AIDS, poverty, reproductive - sexual health and behaviour as well as approaches to future research and action.
"When it comes to comes to Africa, there is a huge lack of knowledge in key areas," said Director of the UNU, Jean-Marc Coicaud. "Also Africa is lagging behind when it comes to the [Millennium Development Goals] MDGs."
"African universities have been neglected as a whole in the past 20 years or so both by the UN system perhaps and by Western partners, and we wanted to rectify all these things," Mr. Coicaud added.
"African universities and African graduates could really be both stakeholders and contributors to African development. That's the rationale for this series on Africa focusing on the MDGs," he said, explaining the rationale for the symposium.
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will provide a keynote speech of the symposium, which is sponsored by Turkey and is the third in the UNU-Cornell "Africa Series." The series will help inform the high-level meeting on "Africa's Development Needs" to be held during the General Assembly, starting later this month.